Zaza Pachulia

Central Notes: Bledsoe, Pachulia, Love, Bucks

The final year of Eric Bledsoe’s $70MM contract extension with the Bucks has a $3.9MM partial guarantee in the final season, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. The extension became official on Monday.

Bledsoe’s $19.375MM salary that season would be fully guaranteed if he’s on the roster beyond June 30, 2022, Charania adds. The cap hits for the first three years of the extension are $15.62MM, $16.87MM and $18.12MM, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets.

Bledsoe, who is not eligible to be traded until September 4, will rank 13th in salary next season among point guards around the league, and that doesn’t include impending free agents Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and D’Angelo Russell, Marks adds.

We have more news from around the Central Division:

  • Pistons reserve center Zaza Pachulia has been fined $25K by the league for confronting and verbally abusing a game official and failing to leave the court in a timely manner upon being ejected, according to an NBA press release. Pachulia was tossed against Toronto in the second quarter on Sunday after arguing a no-call and getting assessed two technicals.
  • Kevin Love has no regrets about signing an extension with the Cavaliers this summer but he wishes he could have been a bigger part of their season, as he explained to Jason Lloyd of The Athletic.  Love missed a chunk of the season after undergoing foot surgery and the Cavaliers soon went in rebuild mode. “There have been some bright spots in terms of younger guys getting better,” he said. “But it’s been tough, especially stepping into a leadership role and then you’re not out there for three months.” Love also weighed in on the Zion Williamson situation, saying the Duke star and likely No. 1 overall pick shouldn’t return this season from his knee sprain, “If I were him, I’d probably say, especially after a scare like this, I’d heavily consider telling the NCAA to pay us or else shutting it down and doing what’s best for his family,” Love said. “That kid is really an exceptional talent … I would lean toward not coming back.”
  • Bucks GM Jon Horst deserves more credit for the team’s success, Matt John of Basketball Insiders argues. Trades and free agent signings that brought in Bledsoe, Ersan Ilyasova, Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic greased the skids for Milwaukee’s rise to the top of the Eastern Conference. Horst also made other moves that improve the team’s salary-cap flexibility going forward, John adds.

Central Notes: Lopez, Pistons, Cavaliers

As the Bucks have gotten off to a strong start, the improved floor-spacing around Giannis Antetokounmpo has been a key in taking the team to the next level. Of course, one of the key cogs in the Bucks’ rotation has been Brook Lopez, who is attempting nearly seven 3-pointers per game from the center position.

As Marc Stein writes for The New York Times, Lopez’s transformation into an elite shooter at center has made the Bucks offense even more dynamic and unstoppable. As Stein points out, once the Lakers decided not to bring Lopez back in the offseason, the Bucks pounced and added Lopez as a key offseason addition for new head coach Mike Budenholzer as he worked to modernize the team’s offense.

So far, the results speak for themselves. Antetokounmpo is averaging 18.9 points per game in the paint as a result of the increased floor-spacing around him, and the Bucks look to be a regular season power with their new offensive system.

There’s more from the Central division:

Central Notes: Markkanen, Burks, Pachulia, Bulls

Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen made his season debut on Saturday against the Rockets, seeing 25 minutes of action off the bench for the first time since suffering an elbow sprain in September.

Markkanen, 21, is a key cog in the Bulls’ young core, and the team was 5-18 without him this season. He struggled shooting the ball on Saturday and finished 4-14 from the field, a clear sign of rust from the extended time on the sidelines.

“I felt good,” Markkanen said after the game, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. “I had no problems with my elbow, so that’s a positive. Missed some easy shots, but I think I played decent defense. I just gotta get my legs back.”

Aside from his shooting, Markkanen grabbed four rebounds, recorded a steal, one block and two fouls against the Rockets. It’s unclear how long he’ll come off the bench, with the likes of Jabari Parker and Wendell Carter Jr. starting ahead of him in the frontcourt.

“We will be careful with his minutes,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We’ll have constant communication while he’s on the floor to see if he needs a break to get his wind. But he’s done a great job of preparing himself for this moment with all the work he has done.

“Everybody is excited to have him back. He has a great skill set. He can do a lot on the floor. He demands a lot of attention to hopefully open up some driving lanes for some of our playmakers. He’ll have the ball in his hands some as well in facilitating.”

There’s more from the Central division today:

  • New Cavaliers guard Alec Burks played his first game with the team on Friday, scoring 15 points in 26 minutes off the bench. He followed this performance with a 13-point game on Saturday against the Raptors, proving his worth since being part of a Jazz-Cavs trade from last week. “Opportunity is everything in this league,” Burks said, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “I feel like I have a great one here. Just trying to take advantage of it and help my new team win.”
  • Zaza Pachulia has provided a settling effect on the Pistons behind Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond this season, Ansar Khan of Mass Live writes. Pachulia, a former NBA champion, has averaged 4.1 points and 4.4 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game.
  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times believes the Bulls should follow the Cavaliers’ lead and explore trading players, explaining his thoughts in a new piece. Players such as Justin Holiday, Jabari Parker and Robin Lopez could register interest on the trade market.

Warriors Notes: Centers, Curry, Green, Iguodala

Tyson Chandler‘s statement that he considered signing with the Warriors before joining the Lakers is a sign that Golden State is having second thoughts about its current group of centers, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Steven Adams dominated the Warriors on Wednesday with 20 points and 11 rebounds in Oklahoma City’s 28-point win, elevating concerns that Damian Jones, Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell aren’t doing enough in the middle.

The organization made the decision to go with younger centers this summer, letting JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia and David West all leave. However, after a few weeks Golden State was already reaching out to a veteran like Chandler to provide more stability.

Jones made his 17th start in 19 games Wednesday, but posted just four points and no rebounds, continuing his season-long struggle. Looney had four points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes, but Slater notes that his offensive limitations make it hard to trust him with a larger role. Bell has fallen out of the rotation and hasn’t played well enough to earn more minutes.

Of course, the Warriors’ problems at center could be solved in a big way once offseason addition DeMarcus Cousins is able to play. But there’s still no timetable for him to return after last season’s Achilles injury, which means center could be a lingering issue for the defending champs.

There’s more Warriors news to pass along:

  • Stephen Curry didn’t appear to be bothered by a groin sprain during shooting drills at Tuesday’s practice, but the Warriors are being careful about bringing back their star guard, Slater relays in the same story. He has already been ruled out for games Friday and Saturday against the Trail Blazers and Kings. Golden State is 2-5 since Curry suffered the injury.
  • Draymond Green, who is sidelined with a sprained toe, may be losing his impact as a vocal leader, Slater adds. Green was caught on camera giving a fiery speech during a first-half timeout, but the reaction of his teammates suggests that it wasn’t inspirational.
  • Andre Iguodala hasn’t been able to provide a scoring boost with Curry and Green sidelined, writes Dieter Kurtenbach of The San Jose Mercury News. Iguodala is averaging just 6.4 PPG since the start of November. Kurtenbach contends he could be filling the roles of playmaker and third scorer, but appears to be coasting through the regular season.

Central Notes: Galloway, Ellenson, Nance, Sumner, LaVine

Pistons guard Langston Galloway has reemerged as a rotation player under new coach Dwane Casey. Galloway was a forgotten man entering camp with Reggie Bullock, Stanley Johnson, Luke Kennard and free agent signee Glenn Robinson III seemingly ahead of him at the wing positions. But Casey’s emphasis on 3-point shooting has helped Galloway, who averaged 26 MPG during the preseason, gain a rotation spot.  “I’m one of the snipers on the team,” he told me in a Detroit Free Press story. Galloway is coming off a disappointing first year with the Pistons after signing a three-year, $21MM contract in free agency. He only appeared in 58 games under former coach Stan Van Gundy, averaging 6.2 PPG in 14.9 MPG.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Casey will go with a committee approach at the power positions behind his star duo of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. He’ll use free agent acquisition Zaza Pachulia at times when he goes with a conventional center. Power forward Jon Leuer, who is still working his way back from minor knee surgery, will be the primary backup in some games. When Casey uses smaller lineups, Johnson and Robinson will play some minutes at power forward. One player who is apparently out of the mix is 2016 first-round pick Henry Ellenson, who played just 10 minutes in the last three preseason games.
  • Larry Nance Jr.‘s rookie scale extension descends during the life of the contract, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Nance signed a four-year, $44.8MM extension with the Cavaliers that kicks in next season. Joe Vardon of The Athletic was the first to report that Nance’s salary would steadily decline (Twitter link). His salary will go from $12.7MM next season to $11.7MM, $10.6MM and $9.6MM. That could help the Cavaliers open significant cap space in 2020, when it’s projected to rise to $116MM, Wojnarowski adds.
  • Pacers power forward Thaddeus Young believes two-way player Edmond Sumner is worthy of a standard contract, as he told Scott Agness of The Athletic (Twitter link). “He’s done very, very well. He has exceeded all expectations,” Young said. Summer appeared in 14 G League games and one with the Pacers last season. The 6’6” combo guard out of Xavier averaged 9.0 PPG in four preseason games but will likely spend the bulk of his second season with Fort Wayne once again.
  • Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine appears to be fully recovered from the ACL injury he suffered during the 2016/17 season, Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago reports. LaVine averaged 17.8 points on 52% shooting in 22.3 MPG during the preseason. Chicago retained LaVine by matching the Kings’ four-year, $78MM during restricted free agency this summer. LaVine appeared in 24 games last season after being acquired from the Timberwolves. “I think I found a good rhythm and then just keep that going into the regular season. I think last year still, I was trying to catch my rhythm with the games I played,” LaVine said.

Central Notes: Pistons Lineup, Griffin, Smith, Paxson

Determining the two starters who will join Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson in the lineup is one of the things to watch for during the Pistons’ training camp, according to Keith Langlois of the team’s website. Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard are the three major candidates for those two slots. Jon Leuer, Henry Ellenson and Zaza Pachulia will vie for the role of first big man off the bench, though Leuer’s status for training camp is uncertain due to recent knee surgery, Langlois adds.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Having Griffin as the focal point of their offense for a full season has created optimism around the Pistons franchise, Ansar Khan of MLive writes in his latest player profile. The Pistons had trouble incorporating Griffin into the offense following the blockbuster trade with the Clippers in late January. But he has developed his all-around game and become a better 3-point shooter and passer, Khan continues. New coach Dwane Casey plans on putting the ball in his hands more often, Khan adds.
  • Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith was issued a desk ticket for misdemeanor criminal mischief after he allegedly tossed a fan’s cell phone into a construction site on July 26, according to an ESPN story. Smith spoke to police in New York City on Friday about the allegation and he will appear in Manhattan Criminal Court later this year.
  • Jim Paxson’s title with the Bulls has been changed from director of basketball operations to director of pro personnel, the team announced in a press release. The Bulls also promoted Brian Hagen to associate GM, Steve Weinman to assistant GM and and Miles Abbett to manager of minor league scouting and analytics.

Calderon, Pachulia Ideal Fits In Detroit

While it’s no guarantee that either player will crack new head coach Dwane Casey‘s rotation, both newly-acquired veterans Jose Calderon and Zaza Pachulia are ideal fits to complement the Pistons‘ roster, opines Keith Langlois of Pistons.com.

“They can still play an NBA basketball game. They can contribute,” says senior advisor Ed Stefanski. “But if they don’t play one night, they’re not going to be moping in the locker room. They’re going to be ready to play all the time and they’re going to help these young guys become professionals.”

With both Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith returning this season, Calderon is not likely to see much time at the point guard position. However, given Calderon’s size (6’3”) and ability to shoot from long range (career 41.1% 3-point shooter), it will be interesting to see whether Calderon could play along Jackson or Smith, especially when two rookies – Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown – are likely to be relied upon for reserve shooting guard minutes.

As for Pachulia, he seems to be firmly rooted as a reserve center behind starter Andre Drummond and backups Jon Leuer and Henry Ellenson. But, with an 82-game season to play, injuries could very well force the 34-year-old Georgian big man into more minutes.

“I’m very excited about our two veterans in Pachulia and Calderon,” Stefanski added. “Both winners in the NBA. Both have won championships. Both – if you talk to people in the league – they’re as good a guys as you’re going to get, as professional as you’re going to get.”

Pistons Sign Zaza Pachulia

JULY 15, 12:37pm: The signing is official, the Pistons announced in an email.

JULY 8, 3:51pm: The Pistons have officially waived Moreland, according to a team press release.

12:09pm: Free agent center Zaza Pachulia has agreed to a one-year deal with the Pistons, tweets Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. Pachulia will receive a veteran’s minimum salary of $2,393,887 with a $1,512,601 cap hit.

Pachulia will bring championship experience to Detroit as the backup for Andre Drummond. The 34-year-old won rings as a member of the Warriors in each of the past two seasons.

A rugged defender and rebounder, Pachulia appeared in 69 games with Golden State during 2017/18, averaging 5.4 PPG and 4.7 RPG. His role decreased in the playoffs as the Warriors opted for smaller, quicker lineups. Pachulia played in just seven postseason games, averaging 3.7 minutes.

The addition of Pachulia means Detroit no longer has a need for Eric Moreland, who will be waived, according to Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Today was the deadline to make a decision on a $750K guarantee for Moreland’s $1,826,300 salary.

Warriors To Make Significant Changes This Offseason?

The Warriors brought Northern California yet another parade, celebrating their third championship over the last four seasons. Despite the nearly unprecedented success, the team will continue to evolve and coach Steve Kerr said there may be significant changes to the team’s roster.

“We had a lot of vets this year. I think you’ll see more youth and energy to help us get through all that,” Kerr told ESPN’s Zach Lowe on the scribe’s podcast. “We’re going to have to be very creative and we going to have pace ourselves again and hopefully everything comes together in the playoffs, but you never know.”

Several of the team’s veterans are set to become free agents and it sounds like Kerr is preparing to lose a number of them. Zaza Pachulia, who made roughly $3.47MM this past season, will hit the market. David West (approximately $1.47MM) may retire. Nick Young (slightly over $5.19MM) signed a one-year contract last offseason and will look for work yet again this summer.

If Golden State is going to hand out anything over the minimum, it will have significant financial ramifications on the club. NBA teams trigger the repeater tax penalties if it pays the luxury tax in a given season and has paid it in three of the previous four years. The franchise paid the luxury tax during the 2015/16 campaign as well as this past season. If the Warriors finish next season above the luxury tax line, they’ll face the harsher parameters on their payments.

Those fiercer penalties are as follows:

  • $0-5MM above tax line: $2.50 per dollar (up to $12.5MM).
  • $5-10MM above tax line: $2.75 per dollar (up to $13.75MM).
  • $10-15MM above tax line: $3.50 per dollar (up to $17.5MM).
  • $15-20MM above tax line: $4.25 per dollar (up to $21.25MM).
  • For every additional $5MM above tax line beyond $20MM, rates increase by $0.50 per dollar (ie. $4.75 for $20-25MM, $5.25 for $25-30MM, etc.).

The Warriors already have roughly $103MM in guaranteed salary on the books for next season and that’s before Kevin Durant gets whatever contract he wants. Not to mention Golden State plans to talk extensions with both Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

The luxury tax line is projected to come in at $121MM and while the team isn’t going to be frivolous with its top players, it may be more prudent with its fringe rotation players, as it will almost certainly be a luxury tax payer in the summer of 2019 and possibly beyond. It would be surprising if the team brings back Young at or near his current salary given his production and the franchise’s luxury tax repeater status.

The USC product sported a 3.1 player efficiency rating during this year’s playoffs. Of the 158 players who played at least 6.0 minutes per game this postseason, only four had a worse mark than Young. He saw a total of 205 minutes, though much of his court time came with the team ahead and the game nearly out of reach.

The Warriors found production on cheap deals in Jordan Bell and Quinn Cook this season, and it appears they will look to replicate that success by searching for young, affordable talent to fill out the roster behind Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and their four All-Stars.

Warriors Notes: Pachulia, West, Young, Roster

Despite the success of the current group, the Warriors are expected to undergo some roster changes this offseason, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Those changes figure to be made more around the edges of the roster, rather than to the core, but the club has seven players eligible for free agency — of those players, only Kevin Durant is a lock to return.

According to Slater, it’s virtually a “sure thing” that Zaza Pachulia and David West will be gone, perhaps to retirement. It would also be a “stunner” if Nick Young returns, says Slater. As for their roster makeup, the Warriors almost certainly won’t carry as many centers next season, preferring to add a little more depth on the wing.

Here’s more out of Golden State:

  • Tim Kawakami of The Athletic also examines the Warriors’ 2018/19 roster options, identifying several possible free agent targets and noting that the team would like its first-round draft choice (No. 28 overall) to immediately vie for a rotation spot.
  • As Kawakami writes in a separate piece for The Athletic, the Warriors continue to keep an eye on the NBA’s very best players as potential targets, like they did with Durant prior to the summer of 2016. For now, that means they’ll monitor Anthony Davis, who will be eligible for a new deal in 2020. However, that’s very much on the back burner, with Golden State focusing on keeping its current core intact.
  • According to Kawakami, the Warriors grossed approximately $130MM in 11 home playoff games this year. Slightly lengthier series this spring resulted in an estimate significantly larger than in 2017, when the team grossed about $95MM in eight postseason contests.
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) takes an in-depth look at the Warriors’ roster decisions this offseason, including Durant’s possible contract scenarios, possible free agent deals for Kevon Looney and Patrick McCaw, and what to do with the taxpayer mid-level exception.